NAPA – Two wine label printers have made significant equipment upgrades this summer with a new class of digital printing presses and one that reduces waste through automation.

[caption id="attachment_15915" align="alignright" width="288" caption="Metro Label California brought into production one of the first digital offset printing presses made by Xeikon of Belgium."][/caption]

Metro Label California, part of the Toronto-based Metro Label Group, brought into production one of the first digital offset printing presses made by Xeikon of Belgium and sold off its sheet-fed press.

"We had to get rid of the sheet-fed system because it was extremely labor-intensive," said Rick Novosad, purchasing quality manager. "The decision was made to sell off the sheet-fed press and bring in a top-of-the-line digital press."

The company knew it was going to lose some of that business, but sticker-type labels, commonly called pressure-sensitive labels, are increasing in popularity among vintners, he said.

[caption id="attachment_15916" align="alignleft" width="288" caption="Ben Franklin Press & Label acquired a barely used Sanjo press from China."][/caption]

Meanwhile, Ben Franklin Press & Label acquired a barely used 13-inch Sanjo offset press from China and assembled attachments from around the world to create a more precisely controlled ink system with automated quality control; in-line hot stamp, emboss and foil units; and a die-cutter that works with the thinner, recyclable plastic label backing.

The printing industry has been moving to 1.2-mil PET clear plastic backing for pressure-sensitive labels, from the 1.5-mil backing used to prevent tearing during high-speed jobs, because of the lower material cost and recyclability. Ben Franklin Press is currently in talks with a Hayward recycling company to accept backing-material waste after bottling.

The company, which already has three 10-inch pressure-sensitive label presses, had been looking for more printing capacity for two years and took several months interfacing the different components, according to Dennis Patterson, president and general manager. Though the economy has reduced wine sales and, thus, bottles needing labels during that time, the cost savings from a wider press, automated systems and in-line embellishment devices has helped the company become more price-competitive than its current presses.

"The same type of label with the same embellishments could be cheaper price points because it would have to go through the older presses twice," Mr. Patterson said.

The new press allows operators to adjust color via touch screen-controlled servo motors on the ink fountains.

"It all can be adjusted in minutes versus more than an hour with the traditional thumbscrews," he said. "We've thrown away $400 to $500 in paper adjusting the ink."

A quality-control camera at the end of the press checks each label against a customer-approved computer image and alerts operators to deviations in eight quality categories. Ben Franklin Press is considering adding such systems to existing presses to boost efficiency.

Metro Label California's Xeikon 3300 press, which can sell for $1 million depending on attachments, has a more heavy-duty design and uses a different type of higher-resolution toner than the two HP Indigo presses Metro Label operates in Toronto, according to Mr. Novosad. The toner is rated for resolution of 1,200-dots-per-inch at four bits per dot with no volatile organic compound, or VOC, offgassing linked to climate change. The press' top speed is nearly 63 feet per minute.

The Napa plant used to have an Indigo press but gave it up because the company had challenges with operations. Some other North Coast label printers use Indigo presses.

Ben Franklin Press' new printing press can use the ultraviolet waterless offset process of the company's existing pressure-sensitive label presses, a process that also doesn't have VOC offgassing. The new press also can print using flexographic, letterpress, flatbed silkscreen processes.

For more information, contact Metro Label California at 707-226-2806 or www.metrolabel.com and Ben Franklin Press at 707-253-8250 or www.benfranklinpress.com.